What we learned at #AUTM2014

Each year, thousands of technology transfer officers convene with professionals from a variety of industries to discuss new technologies, trends in commercialization, best practices, and lessons learned at the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) annual conference.

This year was no different. CTTC sent a team comprised of licensing officers, analysts, and financial experts to meet, mingle and learn with this diverse group. The four-day conference was packed with informational sessions, individual meetings with industry representatives, panel discussions, and addresses from industry experts. Our team left with new ideas, new contacts, and a renewed vigor for the work we do in technology transfer.

We learned:

  • All universities and academic medical centers are struggling with policies associated with the management and transfer of biological materials and genomic data.
  • Diagnostic technologies continue to present unique challenges to commercialization, which include uncertain regulatory conditions, high costs of development, and insecure mechanisms of payor reimbursement.  At a minimum, promising diagnostic technologies must clearly offer actionable guidance to physicians on how to change patient care as a result of the test.
  • In reviewing STATT data, the University of Texas system determine that universities with a foundation structure to handle technology transfer operations are statistically more successful.
  • Keeping an open mind regarding potential applications for new discoveries can be fruitful.  In particular, the food industry may present unexpected commercialization opportunities for innovations in antifungals, texturizers, probiotics, nutrition and packaging.
  • AUTM is a great opportunity to partner with representatives from industry and get their insight on university-developed technologies.
  • Students are a great resource. One university suggested creating a student contest for visualization of technology transfer metrics.
  • Communications is critical. Vanderbilt has been working on a deal term database, which will be helpful to numerous other institutions.
  • Columbia University conducted a survey on licensing of semiconductor and electronics technologies and found that they are almost never licensed thru traditional means; they are usually only through start-ups, sponsored research, or assertion.

But perhaps one of the greatest takeaways from AUTM 2014 was the great reminder of the challenges our industry faces and how working together we can find creative and innovative solutions to these challenges. At the conference, we debuted our new automated system for managing and processing material transfer agreements. The system, built and powered by Vanderbilt, utilizes widely accepted agreements, such as the SLA, the UBMTA, and AUTM derivatives of the UBMTA. It is near instantaneous, easy to use, and eliminates unnecessary negotiation. The system has the potential to save universities and not-for-profit institutions considerable time and administrative effort. As we shared information about this system, we saw tremendous interest from our colleagues across the country and will soon begin rolling this system out to them. Our goal is to simplify the process that is critical to research but quite draining on technology transfer offices.

That, and all the reasons listed above, are a mere snapshot of the power of AUTM. The ability to collaborate with others, network with industry, and learn from our colleagues greatly improves our ability to take the inventions that come through our offices and get them to the people that need them.

Venture Forum Panel at AUTM 2014